Roy Exum: Horse Breeders Still Scoff


The Chattanoogan -Monday, June 10, 2013

image001Several weeks ago the president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitor’s Association saw the handwriting on the wall and the group’s Executive Committee elected to support the far-reaching Whitfield Amendment that is now in Congress and will greatly strengthen the federal Horse Protection Act.  “We must rid ourselves of this dark cloud,” he urged.

But in the same way the “Dirty Lick” segment of the Walking Horse industry has openly flaunted the federal laws for nearly 50 years, the breeder’s Board of Directors refused to ratify the committee’s request, virtually assuring an enraged public and thousands of sound horsemen will now bear down of those who sadistically sore and maim the magnificent animals in an unparallel all-out assault this summer and fall.

Boyd made his impassioned plea, saying “the problem is that nobody outside our industry believes” the Shelbyville Slime, as the Dirty Lickers are called is doing anything but dodging efforts to eradicate horse abuse. “When you’ve lost the public you have lost it all … and we have clearly lost the public.”

His words were illustrated by the recent arrest of longtime “Dirty Licker” Larry Joe Wheelon, a Maryville trainer whose barn was raided and allegedly yielded 19 horses that were so maimed and sored some could hardly walk. Two of Wheelon’s associates, Randall Stacy Gunter of Louisville, Tenn., and Brandon Lundsford of Walland, Tenn., have since been arrested and could face one-to-five years in state prison on each count.

Wheelon, on the board of the highly-suspect Trainer’s association and an active judge at horse shows, was hysterically a member of the group’s ethics committee and, if the allegations of flagrant abuse are found true, he could actually die in prison.

While the great majority of Walking Horse owners both in the state and across the country are clamoring for the Whitfield amendment to finally give a kick to the lame federal laws, the “Dirty Lickers” based in Shelbyville are viciously fighting a huge army of detractors and the odds of any success are overwhelming.

Opponents include the leading veterinarian groups in the nation, countless dozens of animal welfare groups  like the Humane Society of the United States, a “fed up” U.S. Department of Agriculture, and an ever-growing number of American citizens who are nauseated by the endless parade of lies, overwhelming violations and a stagnant leadership rife with documented past abuses.

The Whitfield Amendment would not only make horse abuse a Federal felony but would eliminate the atrocious stacks, or pads, and other so-called “action devises” that normal horsemen can hardly believe have proliferated the breed. As a result, Tennessee in general and Shelbyville in particular is considered the epicenter of horse abuse in the entire world.

A story appeared in the Sunday editions of the Shelbyville Times-Gazette on Sunday suggesting that “perception” isn’t “reality” and noted “for sale” signs are springing up like summer daisies along “Walking Horse Row” where horse trainers are feeling the sting of economic “reality” rather than winner’s circle “perception.”

The so-called “Big Lick” has morphed into the “Dirty Lick” since the movie star trainer, Jackie McConnell, electrified the nation in a video that proved horse abuse is commonplace in the Walking Horse industry. Wheelon’s recent arrest – the first since the state made horse abuse a felony – added to the despicable reputation that the “Dirty Lickers” have given to the still noble breed and both federal and state prosecutors predict other arrests are imminent before the World Celebration takes place in Shelbyville in August.

CONTINUED – Read the rest of the article.


Habitat for Horses is a 501.c.3 nonprofit equine protection organization supported solely by donations. As of this morning, we have 157 donkeys and horses under our care, plus one mule. Most of them are here because law enforcement removed them from their previous owner. Our ability to rehabilitate and rehome them comes from the financial support of people like you. Please support us by making a donation for the horses we all serve. Click HERE to donate

AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • Debbie Tracy

    Finally this hideous cruelty is being really addressed…. Shame on the individuals who do this to these horses, that is NOT training it is plain and simple submission by torture!!

    Hard to believe in this day and age people can be so cruel just for what a blue ribbon and MONEY of course…..

    June 10, 2013
  • Robynne Catheron

    Here is a video of the famous lite-shod TWH stallion, Champagne Watchout, in the WGC class his owners fought so hard to enter back in 1999. The TWHBEA and Celebration Committee refused to let the horse compete in the WGC class because he wasn’t “Big Lick,” he gaited naturally (and beautifully, I might add) instead. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that about halfway through the class, the announcer asks the riders to halt and reverse. Champagne Watchout made a complete circuit of the arena in the time it took the other horses (sored and on stacks) to just stop and turn around! Their labored huffing and puffing showed without a doubt how agonizing that simple maneuver was for them. If anyone can spare the time, this website is packed with information about this magnificent and versatile horse. It also contains a bounty of facts regarding the Big Lick, or Performance community. My hat is off to the Jackson family, and their fabulous stallion.

    June 10, 2013
  • Robynne Catheron

    I’m unable to post the link, but the now-famous video can be found at walkin on ranch dot com, under Exhibition Videos, 1999. For anyone who is unsure of the difference between lite-shod and Big Lick, this is it in a nutshell. Horses cannot perform this hideous and excruciatingly painful crab-like walk without being sored and forced to wear these heavy, stacked shoes/pads. It should be a federal offense, and be mandatory prison time.

    June 10, 2013
  • Mary Anne Gardner

    Finally there is going to be a stop to this cruel act!!! For years horses have suffered for these mean men demanding the “BIG LICK” well say good by to your cruel sport!
    I am so happy to hear there is something for our horse!!

    June 10, 2013
  • Margaret

    I think Keith Dane told us at Las Vegas that McConnell won’t face felony charges since his case was before the change in law. Basically he’ll get slapped with a fine (that owners who have deep pockets are all too happy to pay)maybe a bit of time behind bars.

    While he may not face felony charges its important to note the change this actions brought into place. I’m not condoning his behavior, and I’m not saying to let him off. Just the bigger picture tells me–far better for him not to sink–when it was his very actions that brought about the change.

    As for Wheelon who thought he was to above everyone else–I hope you die behind bars. Have a great life in prison. Maybe a way can be found to insert heel spurs into his feet and he can be forced to perform the Dirty Lick human style (marching)for all his Dirty Licker friends. Oh it has to be concrete, and no special orthotics.

    Me. I know what heel spurs feel like in BOTH feet. Try driving over 2000 miles with them, walking. I sorta know what he put those horses through pain wise and it ain’t pretty. Heel spurs are nasty little hooky things that point downwards in your heel. When you put pressure on them from normal walking–agony doesn’t even begin to describe the pain. Usually its one foot that’s affected. In my case it’s both at the same time.

    People that knowingly do something even remotely related to this are scumbags. And 1-5 years behind bars isn’t near long enough for them to understand the severity of their actions.

    June 10, 2013
  • LNorman

    Prison is too good for them, caustic acid bath less burdensome on the taxpayers.

    June 10, 2013
  • Nancy B

    This truly is such great news! As we all know, the torture of this beautiful breed has been going on far too long.

    Jerry- Again, thanks for keeping us so well informed.

    Robynne Catheron- It was maybe a year ago that I viewed the video you mentioned. The horse “Champagne Watchout” and his partner/rider both performed beautifully. Watching that team ride along so smoothly and comfortably beside the other horses who were obviously in excrutiating pain was downright heart breaking! It’s beyond me how anyone can interpret those poor horses un-natural, pain induced movement as desirable. Thank God this torture is coming to an end!

    June 10, 2013
    • Robynne Catheron

      Nancy B, from your lips to God’s ears! The laws must be enforced to the letter for every single infraction in order for any positive changes to take place. Judges and juries cannot continue to hand down minimum sentences. The state needs someone who will put the hammer down on these vermin. However, rumor has it that revenue is so great from these shows, and especially the Celebration, that it’s difficult to find an official who isn’t involved in some way. Thank the Lord for pro-active, vocal, and persistent folks like Jerry Finch, RT Fitch, and the Jackson family, and many other good and kind advocates. I can share my views here and on Facebook and send emails to friends and call my Congressmembers all day long, but it’s the people with huge readerships, those who aren’t afraid to yell about these atrocities from the rooftops that truly get the job done, get the laws changed, and get them enforced. My hat is off to those folks.

      June 11, 2013
    • Robynne Catheron

      One more thing: we can rest assured that if these despicable criminals don’t receive the punishment we think they deserve here on earth, they still have to face their ultimate judge. We can count on ultimate justice.

      June 11, 2013